Popular Online Jewish Genealogy Collection Surpasses One Million Entries
SALT LAKE CITY—The Knowles Collection, a quickly growing, free online Jewish genealogy database linking generations of Jewish families from all over the world, reached its one-millionth record milestone and is now easily searchable online. The collection started from scratch just over seven years ago, with historical records gathered from FamilySearch’s collections. Now the vast majority of new contributions are coming from families and private archives worldwide. The free collection can be accessed at FamilySearch.org/family-trees.
The databases from the Knowles Collection are unlike other collections in that people are linked as families and the collection can be searched by name, giving researchers access to records of entire families. All records are sourced and show the people who donated the records so cousins can contact one another. New records are added continually, and the collection is growing by about 10,000 names per month from over 80 countries. Corrections are made as the need is found, and new links are added continually.
“With the Knowles Collection so visible at FamilySearch.org, researchers will have the chance to compare their Jewish family histories against the collections of FamilySearch, giving families more opportunities to expand, preserve, and share them,” said Todd Knowles, a Jewish genealogy specialist at the popular Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and founder of the popular Knowles Collection.
The popular Knowles Collection started from Knowles’s desire to know more about his Jewish ancestors. “My search for my great-great-grandfather Morris David Rosenbaum, a Polish Jew, eventually led me to begin compiling the genealogical records of the Jewish people,” recounted Knowles. “The genealogy of Morris David Rosenbaum became the backbone of the Knowles Collection.”
Knowles began by following Rosenbaum from Poland through England to the United States. Knowles discovered the Mordy Collection in England, which had been compiled by Isobel Mordy from Middlesex, England. “She had literally used individual scraps of paper to compile 150 individual pedigrees, with over 7,500 records,” said Knowles. Mordy’s work was very important, but because of the complexity and numbering system of her collection, searching it was difficult, so Knowles decided to make it electronic.
“Mordy did not have access to the Internet or the resources we have available to us today to fill in sources and gaps,” said Knowles. So Knowles used the tools available to him at FamilySearch.org, such as census records, probates, synagogue records, and cemetery records, to begin publishing more than 10,000 Jewish names hailing from the British Isles. Eventually, his collection of Jews of the British Isles grew to 40,000 names.
Today, Jewish communities worldwide are adding their own records to the popular Knowles Collection online. The Knowles Collection has grown from Jews of the British Isles (now with 208,349 records), to Jews of North America (489,400), Jews of Europe (380,637), Jews of South America and the Caribbean (21,351), Jews of Africa, the Orient, and the Middle East (37,618), and the newest one, Jews of the Southern Pacific (21,518).
“So many of our ancestors left their native lands for new homes. That diaspora [scattered colonies of Jews] are now in six different searchable databases in the Knowles Collection,” said Knowles, “These collections show how universal our families are.”
Knowles said many difficulties exist in Jewish genealogical research. “The records of one family may be in hundreds of places. Very few records are in a central archive. The records collection at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is the largest outside of Israel,” Knowles says.
There has always been an interest in family history among Jews. With the advent of the Internet and electronically accessible databases online, that interest is growing rapidly. “Jews are doing family history like crazy,” Knowles says. “Rabbis have kids doing their family history before their bar mitzvahs. Everyone has a desire to know who they are and where they came from. Once you spend a little time looking at your family’s past, you will find a fascination you never thought possible.”